History of the Medal for Acts of Humanity

The Medal for Acts of Humanity founded in 1822.

The foundation of the Medal was prompted by the rescue of a soldier from a deep well in the fortress of Tournai, which at that time was in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. As the rescue did not take place during hostilities, King Willem I thought that the Military Order of William was not a suitable reward for this brave deed. So he created the Medal for Acts of Humanity as an alternative.

Acts of bravery through the years

The Medal was initially awarded mainly to members of lifeboat crews and sailors who helped to save lives at sea. It was also awarded to doctors who cared for patients with what were at that time life-threatening diseases like cholera. From 1900 onwards, the decoration was also regularly given to those who saved lives in cases of fire, explosions or the collapse of buildings. Since the advent of railways and motor vehicles, the medal has also been awarded for saving lives threatened by accidents involving trains, trams or cars. The invention of aeroplanes added another new dimension. Those who perform acts of courage in dangerous situations, for example by overpowering robbers or attackers, can also receive the Medal.

The present form of the Medal dates from 1912. This followed various other designs. Until 1898 it took the form of a table medal.